Homeland Security Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson addressed foreign and domestic security concerns, marijuana legislation and the Clinton impeachment in a discussion with College Republicans Tuesday night.
About 25 students attended the event in the Marvin Center, which was part of the CRs’ Speakers’ Bureau, which seeks to bring conservative leaders to campus.
Hutchinson, the under secretary for Border and Transportation Security at the newly-formed Homeland Security Department, said the Bush administration would respect Americans’ rights as it pursues terrorists.
“We’re committed to protecting our nation without compromising individual liberties,” Hutchinson said.
He said America’s role in the Middle East is not over and cited Israel as an example where the United States would be engaging in diplomatic efforts to end conflict.
“It’s important to remind our nation that we’re not out of the woods yet,” said Hutchinson, echoing recent statements by President George W. Bush.
He said while the Homeland Security Department has lowered the national threat level from orange to yellow, the country will stay at a heightened state of alert as it continues to wage war against terrorist groups.
“There are going to be ongoing threats and challenges ahead,” Hutchinson said.
The Homeland Security Department cited the cessation of fighting in Iraq as the reason for lowering the threat level. The department, created by Bush to coordinate federal law enforcement efforts, held an inauguration ceremony at GW in February.
Before serving in the Homeland Security Department, Hutchinson headed the Drug Enforcement Administration and served three terms in Congress as a representative from Arkansas.
Hutchinson said drug use is down drastically in the United States, adding that the DEA is making great progress in the war against drugs.
“There’s been a significant amount of success in the historical long term in the fight against drugs,” he said.
He also praised recent efforts bygroups in Nevada and South Dakota to thwart efforts to decriminalize marijuana possession.
“We don’t want to move to a decriminalized regime when it comes to drug use,” Hutchinson said.
Despite being from former President Clinton’s home state, Hutchinson was one of Clinton’s most outspoken opponents during the 1998 impeachment hearings. Hutchinson, who won reelection although analysts were critical of his stance, said he did not regret calling for Clinton’s removal from office.
“People told me that this was not something I wanted to do, that this was suicide,” Hutchinson. said “But there are things in life I’m willing to give up a seat in Congress for.”
Hutchinson also reflected on his auspicious political beginnings and cited his failed attempt to win election to the U.S. Senate as a measure of his resolve to succeed.
“When you enter into politics or enter into a career, never forget your principles and your fundamentals,” he said.
Students said Hutchinson provided a fresh outlook on security.
“I thought he was wonderful,” said senior Alycia Piontkowski, vice chair for the CRs. “He really provided a different perspective (on) homeland security.”
The CR Speakers’ Bureau has also featured Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and social commentator Phyllis Schlafly.